Welcome to America’s most famous playground and the No. 1 family vacation destination. While tourists usually visit for the big-name theme parks, there is so much more to Central Florida than meets the eye—the myriad of treasures beyond the obvious theme parks that travelers can find while enjoying Florida’s most popular tourist destination. The seemingly endless and ever-growing list of classic and contemporary activities can literally keep visitors busy for months. See our list of Orlando Must-Do activities for a varied sampling of some high recommendations. If you’re traveling to Orlando, here are a few Fast Facts about The City Beautiful of the Sunshine State that will give you an informed head start about the area and things you should know before heading on your magical Orlando travels:
First Impression: America’s most famous playground, obvious in the traffic jams during rush hour and endless attractions. There’s so much to see and do, you could easily spend two weeks here and not see it all. Proximity to the beaches and Kennedy Space Center makes it the perfect launching pad for your Central Florida adventure.
Weather: October—May daily average daily temps run in the low 70s to mid 80s degrees F (Fahrenheit), with June—September in the upper 80s to high 90s. Expect high humidity, late-day storms and temps pushing 100 the worst in July—August. Summer can get really, so drink lots of water and wear sunscreen no matter where you go outdoors.
Transportation: Orlando International Airport (MCO) is a major hub located within 15 miles of the Orange County Convention Center and major attractions, with Orlando Sanford International Airport 18 miles and 45 minutes respectively. Cabs, major rental-car companies and private groups are available, as well as the city Lynx bus system, which also operates a free downtown circulator. The easiest way to take on the town while avoiding the mousetraps is to rent a car.
Alternate Attractions: Outside of the theme parks, there are numerous attractions for every age and personality, like Orlando Magic NBA basketball, UCF Knights College Ball, Pointe Orlando, House of Blues, Downtown Disney, City Walk, Hard Rock LIVE, Cirque de Soleil, Gatorland, Titanic the Experience, WonderWorks, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Medieval Times, Pirates Dinner Adventure, Arabian Nights, Fantasy Flight, Magical Midway Thrill Park, Warbird Adventures, Orlando Balloon Rides, Bok Tower Gardens, Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, The Mennello Museum of American Art, The Orange County Regional History Center and much, more more.
Shopping: Some of the finest shopping is around every corner, including numerous premium outlet centers and first-class malls like the Mall at Millenia and Florida Mall. Its retail options are enough to fill 900 American football fields. Some of the trendiest shops and boutiques can be found downtown in Thornton Park and in outlying areas like Bay Hill, Baldwin Park, College Park’s Edgewater Drive, and Winter Park’s prestigious Park Avenue, Hannibal Square and Winter Park Village.
Local Flavor: Orlando has exploded onto the culinary scene with nearly 5,000 restaurants and some of the top chefs in the world. Covering flavors from every cultural experience, Orlando’s dining guide reads more like a world map, with options for every taste bud or a step outside of your comfort zone.
Nightlife: The city pulse rises the second the sun starts setting. Jazz up your nightlife with an eclectic mix of trendy bars, high-energy dance clubs, wine bars with live music, jazz nights, laid-back pubs, vibrant shows, dinner theaters, and entertainment complexes like downtown Orlando, Universal CityWalk, Downtown Disney, “Restaurant Row” on Sand Lake Road and Pointe Orlando on International Drive.
Self Indulgence: Grab a quick massage after the park or indulge in high-end exotic treatments at one of Orlando’s award-winning spas. There are 20 high-end destination spas, including the Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain and The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes Spa, as well as numerous intimate, off-the-beaten path day spas like Euro Day Spa in Winter Park, or The Woodhouse Spa on Sand Lake Road and Acqua Day Spa in Windermere on Conroy Road, both close to Universal Studios Orlando.
Trivia: In 1977, the late George Millay, who also gave us SeaWorld, opened the world’s first modern water park, Wet ‘n Wild, nabbing a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Water Park Association and the surname “Father of the Water Park.”
Outdoor Sports & Recreation: Central Florida has more than 2,000 lakes, springs and rivers for water sports and fishing; 176 golf courses, including world-class, pro-designed courses that host top-name tournaments every year; 800 tennis courts; and 21 fitness trails, giving outdoor enthusiasts a big thumbs up and a multitude of options for every interest.
Thrill Seekers: Looking for big thrills outside the theme parks? There are also airboat rides, helicopter tours, the words largest slingshot ride, skydiving at Skydive Orlando, indoor skydiving, coach or horseback safaris though Florida Eco Safaris, zip lines, indoor waves riding at Fantasy Surf, and wakeboard and ski cableways at Orlando Water Sports Complex.